Giving communities the tools to create better places
Groundwork has worked with local communities for 35 years to make where they live greener and better places to be. In our experience, we know that one of the most successful, sustainable ways of doing this is to empower people to be the part of the change they want to see where they live.
There’s a wealth of evidence to suggest that we’re at risk of finding ourselves back in the ‘bad old days’ where our parks and open spaces become unattractive, uninviting and, in extremis, unsafe places to be. A 2014 report by the Heritage Lottery Fund revealed that 86% of parks managers reported cuts to budgets and they expect the trend to continue for three years. The same report also found that 71% of households with children under 10 are concerned that reduction in council budgets could have a negative impact on the condition of their local park.
We need to find creative ways of preserving these treasured spaces continue to thrive in the ‘Age of Austerity’ and ensuring communities have the guidance and help at their fingertips to play an active role has to be part of the solution.
Naturally, asking people to take responsibility to improve their neighbourhood is no easy feat. Taking on the unknown can be a daunting prospect, especially for those who have no experience of taking on a project of any scale.
One of the ways that Groundwork is helping communities to reach their potential is through our ‘Community Project Toolkit’; an online one-stop shop for communities, local ‘Friends of’ groups and anyone who have an active interest in creating better places where they live.
The website includes guidance and information on how people can take ideas from the drawing board to outside world, including:
- Choosing the right project
- Making the project a success
- Inspiring and maintaining community involvement
- Handling management, legal and financial issues
- Sustainability – environmental, economic and social
The toolkit is also broken down into further categories, providing both inspiration and project -specific advice to those wanting guidance on:
- Food growing projects and kitchen projects
- Projects in school grounds
- Sports and arts projects
- Natural spaces projects
- Community youth projects
- Canal and waterway projects
- Accessibility and community projects
- Heritage community projects
- Outdoor gym projects
- Play projects
By providing both the know-how and the inspiration, the toolkit helps both individuals and communities with the key information needed to improve their neighbourhood.
‘The Green Patch’1 in Kettering is an example of both the difference that a community garden can make to the people living there and the power of bringing people together to create something special.
Groundwork has managed the 2.5 acre site since 2007, transforming a patch of barely used land into a thriving space complete with wildlife, poly-tunnels, orchard and children’s natural play area that involves and supports the local community with projects including after school clubs, young people and adult employment programmes and supported adult volunteering. Having recently been awarded a Green Flag of excellence, an example of what the power of the community can do.
“I think you get more from The Green Patch than what you could ever give it. When people walk through the gate it’s like walking into another world,” says Nigel, who has been a part of The Green Patch since the very beginning.
“We grow people - and the community responds to you. It’s rewarding to see you have made a difference.”
But knowledge and passion without financial backing can only go so far.
Groundwork is supporting Tesco by administering their ‘Bags of Help’2 scheme, which funds local environmental projects across the UK using the money generated by the government’s 5p carrier bag charge.
The programme invited a range of non-profit organisations and schools across England, Wales and Scotland to apply for a grant of up to £12,000 to help improve their local area. Tesco customers then vote in store on the projects they would like to see receive the top prize in their area.
Over 1100 projects have been funded so far, with eight million votes cast resulting in groups securing a share of £11.5 million.
Sheila Ozeer, volunteered on the ‘Bromley by Bow Floating Ecosystem’ project for Thames21. She said: “Volunteering to install a reed bed not only gave me that feel-good factor of doing something good for nature but I got to meet a group of dedicated people, who like me, are passionate about the environment; which was a real privilege!”
“It was an experience that was indeed amazing. Perhaps the best thing I've ever done; I definitely recommend it! It literally opened my eyes to the fact that creating a better environment is possible if we all did our bit to help.”
To find out more, visit Groundwork’s Community Project Toolkit.3
To find out more about Groundwork, visit www.groundwork.org.uk
By Stacey Aplin, PR and Communications Officer at Groundwork UK